Flourish in Farming

May 17, 2023 | Carrie Pollard, MSW RSW

Flourish in Farming

Want to discover more happiness in farming? “Think of yourself as a plant, not a machine.” As farmers, we know what it requires to help our crops and livestock flourish- we understand the level of work, commitment, and ingenuity involved. However, how often do we think of what is needed to help ourselves thrive? So often, we push ourselves to the limit to get ‘one more thing done’ before ending our already long days. We treat our bodies like machines, but we can’t simply trade them in when the hours get too high. If we want to be happy and healthy, we need to care for ourselves the way God intended by cultivating flow and connecting with our faith.

Flourish through Flow

Providing our bodies with food, water, and sleep will give us the basics needed to survive. However, if we want to be happy, we need to find ‘flow’. Thirty years ago, the concept of flow was introduced by ‘happiness researcher’ Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. He discovered that happiness is intrinsically based, and therefore, is partially in our control. His robust studies found consistently that people are most content when they’re ‘in the zone’ of doing something that is meaningful to them. Mihaly states, “The best moments usually occur when a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult or worthwhile.” This is the essence of farming- difficult and worthwhile. Flow happens when we’re in the field or the barn and are so engrossed in our work that we lose track of time.

The research further shows that the key to finding flow is that the challenge is matched by our skills. If the challenge of the activity is too difficult, then anxiety will increase, and if the task is too easy, then boredom results. This is why we need to recognize that we’re living organisms that need to be cared for to flourish. We need to push ourselves enough that we get excited about the challenge, but not so much that it is overwhelming. For example, when rain is in the forecast, one more field might stretch us enough to get the adrenaline pumping and give a sense of accomplishment; however, doing this every day would lead to burnout. To maintain flow and happiness in our work, it helps to give ourselves moments of rest, so that we can recharge and be ready to tackle the next set of challenges. Rest can be in the form of sleep or in taking time to exercise, connect with our people, have quiet time alone, or tinker with a project.

Flourish through Faith

In addition to flourishing through flow, we can connect with happiness more fully when we’re anchored in our faith. There are many ways God has been described- a creator, a carpenter, a builder, and a farmer. He carefully tends to each one of us and gives us the opportunity to tend to ourselves. So many people describe feeling disconnected with their faith when they’re busy, exhausted, and lonely. In Ephesians, Paul reminds us that, as Christians, we flourish best when we’re rooted in the love of God. And in Psalms, “Those that be planted in the house of the Lord shall flourish in the courts of our God.” We’re most likely to thrive when we strengthen our connection to God- especially during the busy times- through prayer, reading scripture and devotions, listening to faith-based podcasts, and connecting with our church community.

Today, as we move through our tasks of the day, I hope we can be reminded that we’re plants that need to be cared for to thrive. Give yourself the opportunity to find happiness through the ‘flow’ of farming and rooted in your faith and the love of God.

Want to learn more about how to enhance your happiness and wellbeing? The CFFO has partnered with the National Farmer Mental Health Alliance to offer the Christian Farmers Wellness Program, which provides specialized resources designed to support your mental health and help you thrive.

Carrie Pollard, MSW RSW is a psychotherapist, wife of a grain farmer, mother of five, and co-founder of the National Farmer Mental Health Alliance. The CFFO Commentary represents the opinions of the writer and does not necessarily represent CFFO policy. The CFFO Commentary is heard on CFCO Chatham, CKXS Chatham, CKNX Wingham, and CHLP Listowel.